Radio New Zealand yesterday broke a story about how three Auckland Council related organisations had paid for tables to hear John Key’s state of the nation speech. Auckland Transport bought a table for its board and senior managers to hear the announcement of the inner city rail link. Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development bought 38 seats at a cost of $90 per seat for the lunch time announcement. Regional Facilities Auckland bought seats for 5 persons including directors and a manager.
Local board chairs from some of the region’s local boards were invited. I canvassed some of the chairs who attended and although they were appreciative of the invitation they were not aware that a fee was paid.
Apart from Auckland Council Controlled Organisations spending money on attending a speech which was available for free on the web the choice raises an interesting contrast.
Four days later Andrew Little made his state of the nation speech. The venue was a public park and the cost to attendees was nil.
The content was also different. The cornerstone of Key’s speech was the final acceptance that Labour and the Greens were right about the inner city rail link and it was actually advisable as well as being necessary. The contents of Little’s speech was that we are in quickly changing times and we need to prepare. Little was looking five years into the future. Key was finally catching up with the trends that were evident five years ago.
But the thing that really bugged me was the fact that Key’s speech was a paid to watch speech put on by an organisation very friendly to the Government which elements of Auckland Council were helping to subsidise. Can you imagine the outcry if Helen Clark had used a fundraiser put on by E tū Union to deliver her State of the Nation speech?
The Prime Minister, when he is doing his day job, ought to be accessible to all and not fundraising for an organisation supportive of his political party. And Auckland Council entities should not be spending ratepayer money to allow selected individuals to support this.